Joselu of Real Madrid during his time at Newcastle United

7 players that did nothing at Newcastle but shone after leaving

Newcastle United have had their fair share of underwhelming signings over the years. But a fair few have bounced back after struggling up in Tyneside.

There are quite a few examples of players that looked out of their depth at Newcastle only to bamboozle and frustrate in equal measure by going on to shine after leaving.

We’ve taken a look at seven players that failed to impress at St. James’ Park but went on to enjoy great careers elsewhere.


As a youngster, Joselu scored 33 goals in 67 appearances for Real Madrid’s reserves – and notched in his one and only La Liga appearance for the first team.

He’s made his way back to the Bernabeu the long way round after over 10 years away.

Newcastle fans would’ve spat out their tea had you told them five years ago that he’d one day return to Los Blancos. The Spanish striker always tried hard while leading the line for the Magpies but he was hopeless in front of goal, with just seven goals in 52 appearances for the club.

Joselu returned to Spain in 2019 and has since refound his finishing touch, hitting double figures in four successive seasons for Alaves and Espanyol – including a career-best tally of 16 last term.

That form has even seen him earn his first Spain call-ups at the age of 33. He’s scored three goals in his first four international appearances and has already lifted silverware by winning the Nations League.

Ivan Toney

Newcastle signed Toney back when he was a highly-rated youngster back in 2015. But he never made it beyond the fringes. The striker made more appearances for the club’s Under-21s than the first team and was loaned out no fewer than six times during his three years on their books.

Toney left in 2018 in search of regular first-team football and that proved an inspired decision. He scored 24 goals to fire Peterborough United to promotion in 2019-20 and then fired Brentford to the Premier League with 31 Championship goals in 2020-21.

He’s now an England international and one of the most prolific goalscorers in the Premier League.

Chancel Mbemba

Not a total flop in Tyneside but nor was he a success, Mbemba’s only full season as a regular starter at Newcastle ended in relegation.

He remained at the club as they earned promotion from the Championship and consolidated their place back in the top flight, but the defender mostly watched on from the bench as Rafael Benitez opted instead for Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark at the heart of defence.

The centre-back left for Porto in 2018. Whilst there he won two league titles, represented the club in the Champions League as they knocked out Juventus and was named in the Primeira Liga’s Team of the Year in 2021-22. He’s since joined Marseille and played a key role in their resurgence under Igor Tudor.

Florian Thauvin

One of several stars that arrived at Newcastle in the latter years of Mike Ashley’s reign that promised lots but delivered little.

Thauvin had established himself as a promising prospect at Marseille and was signed for a £15million fee. He demonstrated very occasional glimpses of quality whilst at Newcastle but ultimately never settled.

It was only on his return to Marseille that Thauvin realised his potential. He scored 53 Ligue 1 goals in his first three full seasons back at the Stade Velodrome before later making the eyebrow-raising move to join fellow Marseille old boy Andre-Pierre Gignac at Mexican side Tigres.

Nowadays the winger is back in Europe, turning out alongside Gerard Deulofeu for Serie A club Udinese.

READ: 13 Newcastle United signings who were meant to be the business… but weren’t

Georginio Wijnaldum

Okay, “did nothing” is probably stretching it a bit a lot. Wijnaldum scored a hat-trick against Norwich and was largely decent for the Magpies with 11 goals in his one and only season at St. James’ Park. But that campaign was largely miserable and ended with Newcastle suffering relegation to the Championship.

The Netherlands international was a bright spark in Steve McClaren’s otherwise desperately flawed side, and there’s a reason that Liverpool came in to sign him for £23million.

But few could have foreseen the levels Wijnaldum would reach while at Anfield, winning both the Champions League and Premier League as a key cog in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield.

Still, while Wijnaldum’s year on Tyneside didn’t go to plan, he still has warm feelings for his old club.

“Really happy because Newcastle is a really big team,” he recently told reporters when asked how he feels to see his old club back in the Champions League.

“I think a lot of people underestimate how big the club is and how loyal their supporters are.

“When I was there, I saw how hard they were trying to get results and to finish as high as possible and also the fans, who were standing by the team were amazing. So I think they deserve it. How they managed it throughout the years. I think they deserve how it is going right now.”

James Tavernier

Having joined Newcastle’s academy as a youngster from boyhood club Leeds, Tavernier spent six years on the club’s books but only made 10 appearances. 

The right-back was loaned out to lower-league clubs six times before eventually departing for Wigan Athletic in 2014. The following year he joined Rangers, where he remains today as something of a modern-day club legend.

Tavernier has made over 400 appearances for the club, has scored over 100 goals (as a full-back!) and is now club captain.

He was named Players’ Player of the Year as Rangers went unbeaten to claim the 2020-21 Scottish Premiership title and was also outstanding in their run to the Europa League final the following season.

Fraser Forster

Wallsend Boys Club alumnus Forster never made a single appearance for his local club, despite spending seven years on their books after graduating from their academy.

The goalkeeper frequently impressed out on loan, winning promotion with Norwich in 2009-10 and the Scottish Premiership titles with Celtic in 2011-12, but opportunities with his parent club weren’t forthcoming.

Celtic signed him on a permanent deal in 2012 and he went on to win another pair of league titles up in Glasgow. He’s since made over 100 appearances for Southampton and earned six caps for England.

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